Research report
April 2013
in association with
Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce
EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS,
YOUNG P...
This report is part of the CIPD’s Learning to Work initiative, which
is an action-focused programme led by the CIPD to tac...
1
CONTENTS
Methodology and acknowledgements	 2
Foreword	3
Executive summary	 4
Introduction	6
1 Young people and the labou...
2 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce
This report is based on evidence collected through:
•	 aroun...
3EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS
We live in extraordinary times. Youth unemployment is still
at a rec...
4 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce
Employers are from Mars, Young People are from Venus:
Addres...
5EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS
•	 Conduct interviews that get the best out of young
candidates. It ...
6 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce
DO EMPLOYERS NEED TO ADAPT THEIR
RECRUITMENT PRACTICES?
‘Our...
7EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS
Young People (CIPD 2012)); and they have also been well
documented a...
8 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce
Young people are amongst the most disadvantaged groups
in th...
9EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS
LINE MANAGERS AS A BARRIER TO YOUTH
EMPLOYMENT
Line managers often p...
10 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce
The sectors that are more likely to take on a young person ...
11EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS
on the X Factor’, the charity Education and Employers Taskforce
rec...
12 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce
WHERE AND HOW EMPLOYERS ADVERTISE
VACANCIES
Most employers ...
13EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS
When it comes to advertising job opportunities with Jobcentre
Plus ...
14 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce
INTERVIEWS
Interviews are the most widely used of all selec...
15EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS
‘no feedback is the norm’. The study found that the majority
(seven...
16 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce
REFLECTION POINTS
•	 How can employers better promote their...
17EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS
YOUNG PEOPLE’S OVERALL EXPERIENCE
OF LOOKING FOR WORK
Overall, look...
18 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce
•	 how to look for a job
•	 how to apply for a vacancy
•	 h...
19EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS
about what they thought about what their mentees knew about
the opt...
20 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce
of solid information about career pathways at school. Nick,...
21EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS
‘I’m looking for jobs in the media sector, but it is really difficu...
22 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce
A number of young people also tried to approach their job
s...
23EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS
THE IMPACT OF (NO) EMPLOYER FEEDBACK
‘I haven’t had any feedback fr...
Employers are from mars, young people are from venus (Addressing The young People Jobs Mismatch)
Employers are from mars, young people are from venus (Addressing The young People Jobs Mismatch)
Employers are from mars, young people are from venus (Addressing The young People Jobs Mismatch)
Employers are from mars, young people are from venus (Addressing The young People Jobs Mismatch)
Employers are from mars, young people are from venus (Addressing The young People Jobs Mismatch)
Employers are from mars, young people are from venus (Addressing The young People Jobs Mismatch)
Employers are from mars, young people are from venus (Addressing The young People Jobs Mismatch)
Employers are from mars, young people are from venus (Addressing The young People Jobs Mismatch)
Employers are from mars, young people are from venus (Addressing The young People Jobs Mismatch)
Employers are from mars, young people are from venus (Addressing The young People Jobs Mismatch)
Employers are from mars, young people are from venus (Addressing The young People Jobs Mismatch)
Employers are from mars, young people are from venus (Addressing The young People Jobs Mismatch)
Employers are from mars, young people are from venus (Addressing The young People Jobs Mismatch)
Employers are from mars, young people are from venus (Addressing The young People Jobs Mismatch)
Employers are from mars, young people are from venus (Addressing The young People Jobs Mismatch)
Employers are from mars, young people are from venus (Addressing The young People Jobs Mismatch)
Employers are from mars, young people are from venus (Addressing The young People Jobs Mismatch)
Employers are from mars, young people are from venus (Addressing The young People Jobs Mismatch)
Employers are from mars, young people are from venus (Addressing The young People Jobs Mismatch)
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Employers are from mars, young people are from venus (Addressing The young People Jobs Mismatch)

  1. 1. Research report April 2013 in association with Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS: ADDRESSING THE YOUNG PEOPLE/ JOBS MISMATCH
  2. 2. This report is part of the CIPD’s Learning to Work initiative, which is an action-focused programme led by the CIPD to tackle the problem of youth unemployment. The overall aim is to achieve a shift in employer engagement with young people, so that they are encouraged both to help young people prepare for the workplace and to make the labour market itself more youth-friendly, by offering a wider range of access routes into organisations and adapting recruitment methods. cipd.co.uk/learningtowork
  3. 3. 1 CONTENTS Methodology and acknowledgements 2 Foreword 3 Executive summary 4 Introduction 6 1 Young people and the labour market 8 2 How employers recruit young people 12 3 Young people’s experiences of looking for work and recruitment practices 17 4 Social media and the recruitment of young people 24 5 Addressing the young people and jobs mismatch 27 Conclusion 39 References 40 EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS
  4. 4. 2 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce This report is based on evidence collected through: • around 30 employer case studies across all sectors and sizes in England and Scotland, carried out in February and March 2013 • two focus groups with Steps Ahead mentors (HR professionals) and mentees (young jobseekers) in Leicester and Northampton carried out in February 2013 • one focus group with the Prince’s Trust Young Ambassadors, carried out in March 2013 • one focus group with students at the Regent’s University, London, carried out in March 2013 • an employer focus group organised by the British Chambers of Commerce in Birmingham in February 2013 • a mini-survey with Jobcentre Plus advisers carried out in March 2013 • preliminary findings of the CIPD Resourcing and Talent Planning survey 2013 (forthcoming) to be published in partnership with Hays. The author of this report would like to thank all the employers that have kindly shared with us their practices and experiences: Vanessa Paul (Standard Chartered), Alan MacKinnon (IHS), Neil Morrison (Random House), Liz Eddy (NHS), Marcus Lee (Santander), Laura Taylor (Thames Water), Karina Rook (Canterbury College), Sam Follington (Veolia), Maurice Collis (Averda), Stuart Evans (Qatar National Bank), Jo Ward (Nestlé), Shaun Meekins (Barclays RRB), Jane Daly and Helen Alkin (Marks & Spencer), Martin Hottass (Siemens), Anouska Ramsay (Capgemini), Jennifer Lee (Jurys Inn), Liz White and Sandra Kelly (Whitbread), Dominic Gill (Microsoft), Donna Browne and Neil Armstrong (Boots), Robert Seacombe (Experian), Claire Fuller (Asda), Sharon Goymer (National Grid), Marsha Witter and Catherine Schlieben (ITV), Louise Bjerregaard and Liz McGivern (Red Carnation Hotels), Michael Brewis (Aberdeenshire Council), Robert Allan (Apex Hotels), Marc Anderson-Boyd (Taylor Nash), Michael Maddick (RBS), Harsha Gadhvi (Microsoft), Sam Newman (WR Refrigeration) and our thanks to all the other employers we spoke to as part of the research. The author would also like to thank: • Steps Ahead mentors who took part in our focus groups in Leicester and Northampton: Henrietta O’Connor, Chris Swaine, Sam Newman, Ian Nightingale, Jo Kehoe, Denis Plater, Lisa Sirett, Sandra Beale and the young jobseekers who took part in our focus groups: Matthew, Vijay, Abibatu, Preeti, Gulcin • the Young Ambassadors who took part in our focus group organised by the Prince’s Trust: Bennett, Rose, Nick and Keith • the participants of the focus group organised by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) in Birmingham: Philippa Hart (Hart Recruitment), Gemma Fiddler (BCC), Sarah McQueen (EEF West Midlands Technology Centre), Eloise Grant, Nicki Lewis-Downing, Simon Lord (PPDG), Delia Kidanu and Eleanor Clatworthy (AIESEC Birmingham) • Nikki Wade and Lizzie Guinness at the Prince’s Trust for organising and running a focus group with their young people for us • Gerard O’Donnell and Graham Bann at BITC for helping to secure employer interviews • Matthew Bennett from the National Partnership Team at Jobcentre Plus for his help with dissemination of a survey to JCP advisers • Andrea Broughton at the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) for her input to the section on social media • Matthias Feist, Head of Department, Careers and Business Relations and Alister Simpson, Careers Information Officer at the Regent’s University for their input and for their focus group • David Massey at the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, Anthony Mann at the Education and Employers Taskforce and Chris Goulden at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation for input to this research • Anne Tipple from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and Henrik Court from the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce for organising an employer focus group in Birmingham for us • colleagues at the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS), notably Caroline Mason for her input on the online vacancy matching service • Siobhan Cronin at QA Apprenticeship for a training provider angle on apprenticeships • Adam Swash from Experian and Working for Youth for his input and help with organising employer case studies • Kate Shoesmith at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) for her input on the recruitment agency angle • colleagues at the CIPD: Annie Peate for carrying out a literature review and her help in carrying out employer interviews, Kelly Duncan for organising focus groups and her general input to the young people dimension of the research, Claire McCartney for help with developing the research questions and input from the Resourcing and Talent Planning survey, Ben Willmott for carrying out some case studies and an HRD forum discussion in Scotland and Katherine Garrett for help with the final report. The author would also like to thank the members of the Learning to Work advisory group (see end of report) for their support and feedback on initial findings of the research. This publication is part of the CIPD’s Learning to Work programme and was written by Katerina Rüdiger, Skills Policy Adviser, CIPD. For comments and feedback please contact: k.rudiger@cipd.co.uk METHODOLOGY AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
  5. 5. 3EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS We live in extraordinary times. Youth unemployment is still at a record high, with too many young people struggling to find their first job. At the same time, employers often find it difficult to get the skills they need. This mismatch needs to be addressed. Our research highlights ways in which we can bridge the divide between young people and employers. On the one hand employers need to adapt their recruitment practices to more successfully engage with young people, while on the other, young people need to increase their employability skills and understanding about what is expected from them during the recruitment process. As the professional body for those at the forefront of decision-making around workforce investment, talent development and recruitment, I feel the CIPD has a substantial contribution to make in developing best practice in this area. We have made the business case for employer investment in young people in previous outputs of our CIPD Learning to Work programme, which aims to get employers involved in tackling youth unemployment. This piece of research builds on this work, by producing advice on how businesses can translate their intentions into actions and bring more young people into their organisations. Many of the organisations we feature in this report do so already. They do so because it is the right thing to do but also because it makes business sense. If we want to be ready for the future, we need to re-examine our approach to workforce investment and start building our talent pipelines now. Peter Cheese Chief Executive Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) FOREWORD
  6. 6. 4 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce Employers are from Mars, Young People are from Venus: Addressing the young people/jobs mismatch draws on a range of sources, including employer case studies, focus groups with young jobseekers, a mini-survey of Jobcentre Plus advisers and interviews with career advisers and training providers. The aim of the research was to explore the mismatch between employers and young people at the recruitment stage and make recommendations for how to overcome any divides. The research has found that: • There is a real mismatch between employers’ expectations of young people during the recruitment process and young people’s understanding of what is expected of them, particularly when it comes to presentation and preparation. • Employers find it difficult to assess young people with limited work experience and young people find it difficult to ‘market’ themselves to employers. • Young people value more open recruitment channels, such as social media, above more traditional means of recruitment such as corporate websites and online job boards. • The limited number of access routes into work available for young people is still a concern. This is particularly the case in highly skilled sectors, such as professional services. However, evidence from our case studies indicates that more employers are developing, or planning to develop, more diverse access routes such as school-leavers’ programmes and apprenticeships. • Most employers don’t specifically target young people with their recruitment practices, although some have started to change the ways in which they recruit young people to get the best out of young candidates. • Job search and the recruitment process are a frustrating and demotivating experience for most young people. Many young people lack the knowledge about job opportunities, how to apply for jobs, how to write a good CV and a good application. • Too many young people have a scattergun approach to applying for jobs rather than researching where they want to work. This results in a high volume of applications that need to be processed by the employer and can be demotivating for young people when they are unsuccessful. • Confidence is an issue for many young people and many find interview situations particularly stressful as they have no prior experience of the workplace and they often don’t know how to talk about their skills or how to ‘market’ themselves to a potential employer. • Recruitment processes are lengthy and not very transparent, often involving up to five stages; young people lack an insight of the process and what is expected from them during the different stages. • There is a lack of support for young people during the transition from education to work, which is preceded by poor advice and guidance at school. • Employer feedback is crucial for young people, yet this is something employers struggle to provide, especially during the first stage of the process due to the volume of applications. To address the mismatches outlined above, the report makes a number of recommendations for employers and policy- makers. The CIPD has also committed to further action on this issue, explained in more detail below. EMPLOYERS Drawing on the experience of other employers and young people, the report makes eight key recommendations specifically aimed at employers: • Make the business case for recruiting young people to line managers and colleagues. Highlight the benefits, such as the need to build talent pipelines, the skills and motivation of young people, the importance of workplace diversity, the enhancement of the employer brand and the cost- effectiveness of developing your own staff. • Adapt your expectations of young people so that you are realistic about how work-ready they will be when they first arrive. Young people don’t always know how to behave in the recruitment process but managers should be encouraged to look beyond first impressions, such as the way people are dressed, and give young people a chance. • Think about the roles and access routes for young people into your organisation. As well as obvious options such as graduate schemes, think about whether other routes such as apprenticeship schemes or school-leaver programmes could work for your business. • Take action to attract from a wider pool of young people. Where and how you advertise opportunities is important. Young people can be sceptical of ‘corporate’ communications and are more likely to respond to humorous and innovative content. You can also broaden your outreach by promoting opportunities via a range of methods, such as social media, attending recruitment fairs, engaging with schools and advertising via Jobcentre Plus, as well as traditional methods such as local newspapers and websites. • Ensure your selection processes are youth-friendly and transparent. There are a number of basic things you can do to ensure you get the best calibre of young people applying for opportunities: – Provide the closing date and contact details for the advertised position. – Be open about the recruitment process, what the stages are and the expectations during those stages. – Develop simple, easy-to use application forms. – Be clear about the selection criteria and review it for each new job – is experience or a degree really essential? EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
  7. 7. 5EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS • Conduct interviews that get the best out of young candidates. It can be a very intimidating process for young people and the more information they are provided with in advance, such as how to dress and who they will be meeting, the better. You can also put them at ease by beginning with an informal chat and giving them a tour of the office. The type of interview is also important; competency-based interviews are generally not suitable for young people as they don’t have the previous work experience to draw on, whereas strength-based exercises allow you to see their potential to learn. • Provide feedback where possible. By giving open, honest and constructive feedback you can directly influence young people’s behaviour in the recruitment process and help ensure their success in the future. It might not be possible to provide individualised feedback at every stage, but simple things such as an automated email to acknowledge an application and a list of ‘common reasons’ why an application might not have been shortlisted can be really useful. We recommend that you do take the time to provide one-to-one feedback for candidates that made it to interview or assessment centre stage, but keep this positive by not focusing on where they went wrong but explaining why the role might not be right for them. Also consider whether you might be able to refer the young person on to other opportunities via your supply chain. POLICY-MAKERS As well as employers, policy-makers also have a role to play in improving the prospects of young people: • There is a need for greater support for young people during the transition phase between education and employment. Most young people do not know where to turn when they try to enter the labour market, and we recommend that the Government commits to provide a dedicated support service for young jobseekers. • Careers advice and guidance and work preparation should be a part of the national curriculum and schools need to be assessed in how well they are doing in this area to incentivise them to put more efforts into this. We asked young people what they would do if they were Education Minister, to make improvements in this area, and this is what they said: – Don’t rely on teachers but get external experts, including employers, into schools to talk about these issues. – Pay attention to those areas where greater advice is needed; address the patchiness of the current advice. – Career advice and guidance needs to be embedded into the education system as part of the curriculum. – There needs to be more information on what choices are available for those leaving school, in particular apprenticeships and other alternatives to university. – More support should be given to encourage employer contact and work experience opportunities. THE CIPD In order to help reduce the gap between employers and young people, the CIPD is committed to: • Produce guidance on recruitment aimed at young people. • Work with employer bodies to develop an established set of recommendations for those involved in recruitment. • Develop guidance for employers on youth employment and how to manage young people effectively. • Launch a project with the Education and Employers Taskforce (EET) to bring CIPD members into schools to provide pupils with advice on CV writing, interview techniques and job search. • Expand our volunteer initiative ‘Steps Ahead mentoring’ which matches young jobseekers with CIPD members. • Work with the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) to help increase the matching of young people and apprenticeship opportunities.
  8. 8. 6 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce DO EMPLOYERS NEED TO ADAPT THEIR RECRUITMENT PRACTICES? ‘Our young employees are extremely important to us. What I’d say to other employers is that if you have a problem with your recruitment of young people, you need to find out what this is and remove the obstacles’ (Jennifer Lee, HR Director, Jurys Inn). Good recruitment practices should be fit for purpose for all candidates. So we could question why employers would need to adapt their recruitment practices to make them more ‘youth- friendly’. After all, positive age discrimination is against the law. Furthermore, if recruitment practices haven’t been targeting young people in the past, why should this change now? Indeed, some organisations are uncomfortable with targeting specific groups via their recruitment processes, and perhaps rightly so. The supermarket chain Asda, for example, say they haven’t adapted their recruitment processes to suit young people’s needs and are not considering this: ‘We believe in fair, consistent and inclusive processes for all, which addresses young people within this,’ argues Claire Fuller, Resourcing Manager at Asda. This is a very valid point, in particular as some of the issues we’ve encountered in our research are purely to do with good recruitment practices (or the lack thereof) more generally. Similarly, another organisation told us they don’t believe employers should change their recruitment practices to suit young people, stating that recruitment should be equitable and all candidates should be treated the same: ‘We should be able to expect the same from all candidates who interview. There shouldn’t be any exceptions for young people’ says their HR Manager In an ideal world we’d like organisations to practise inclusive, good recruitment that considers the different needs of candidates, which would include young people, older workers, BME and other minorities. However, while this is a longer-term goal and beyond the parameters of this specific research project, we think that in the short term, young people are a specific segment of the market that needs looking at, for the following reasons: • Youth unemployment is still disproportionally high, with a young person being 3.5 times more likely to be unemployed than an adult, with negative consequences for the individuals, society and organisations that risk not being able to access the skills in the future. Nearly half of the employers we surveyed in the CIPD’s Learning to Work survey (CIPD 2012b) agreed that young people are disadvantaged in today’s labour market. • In the past employers used to be more pragmatic about issues around ‘work-readiness’ and be more used to bringing in young people, so that unconscious bias didn’t exist. Furthermore, the labour market offered more entry- level positions for young people that were used as access routes into organisations. So both employer behaviour and the labour market structure have changed to negatively impact on youth employment. • The labour market is getting much, much more complex, so if employers don’t actively go out and promote their sectors and industries and the occupations within them, they risk not being able to get the skills they need for the future. Some employers already report difficulties in filling their vacancies, and if we don’t improve the matching of labour market demand and supply, this risk is set to increase. • Rapid changes in technology mean that the current generation of young people is actually different from the previous. This offers many opportunities to employers to capitalise on the digital skills young people possess. However, it also means that young people see and perceive information very differently and that employers need to review their communication with young people. Social media in particular offers a largely untapped tool with which to increase employer engagement with young people. Interestingly, when we asked Jobcentre Plus advisers whether employers should adapt their recruitment processes to engage with young people, an overwhelming majority said yes (75%.)1 IS RECRUITMENT ‘YOUTH-FRIENDLY’? ‘We are not thinking about young people when we are recruiting. Smaller companies are just not targeting their recruitment strategies. We advertise on our website but how many young people would actually know about this and go to our website?’ (Employer focus group, BCC, Birmingham) There are a number of reasons why young people struggle with labour market entry: • a general employer bias against young people (in particular amongst those employers who don’t recruit young people) • preference to recruit workers who are more experienced, and immediately productive, favouring a ‘finished product’ rather than a workforce investment,‘growing your own’ approach • a structural shift towards more high-skilled jobs and fewer entry-level positions, especially in industries which employ a high number of young people • a lack of knowledge among young people about occupations, career pathways and the breadth of opportunities available • a decrease in work experience leading to a perception of reduced ‘work-readiness’ amongst young people (see CIPD 2012a, 2012b for more details). We have already explored many of these issues in earlier publications of our CIPD Learning to Work programme (see for example the Business Case for Employer Investment in INTRODUCTION 1 CIPD mini-survey carried out with JCP advisers, 91 responses, March 2013
  9. 9. 7EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS Young People (CIPD 2012)); and they have also been well documented and researched by organisations such as the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) and the Education and Employers Taskforce (EET). Despite the research available looking at young people and labour market difficulties, we actually know very little about existing recruitment practices and processes in connection to young people. We don’t know how recruitment practices impact on young people and we don’t know whether employers are adapting, or are considering adapting, their recruitment practices to help them attract a greater and more diverse number of young people. Research carried out 15 years ago found that ‘many employers, even those who ultimately recruit young people, make no special effort to recruit young people,’ suggesting that when they do hire young people this is merely an incidental outcome of their recruitment activity (Hasluck 1998). We wanted to know whether this is still the case and, if so, what impact this is having on youth employment. We also wanted to know if there are employers that have adapted or are adapting their recruitment practices, how and why they’re doing so, and with what level of success. A review of the literature found that there is a limited amount of information which specifically addresses the recruitment and selection of young people. However, the information available suggests that the majority of employers are not adapting existing or are not pursuing new practices specifically designed to make their recruitment more ‘youth-friendly’. In our forthcoming CIPD Resourcing and Talent Planning survey 2013, to be published in partnership with Hays, we asked employers whether they had adapted their recruitment processes to make them more accessible to young people. A majority (64%) said they did not, with only just under a quarter saying they did adapt their recruitment processes. BRIDGING THE EMPLOYER–YOUNG PEOPLE GAP ‘Young people require an interviewer who “gets them” and is able to draw out their skills. Line managers need guidance on how to do that. It’s a challenge to remember that young people have little or no first-hand experience of a workplace. We need to allow for this.’ (Alan MacKinnon, Director, Talent Acquisition EMEA, IHS Consulting) More specifically in the context of youth unemployment, there are three reasons why we think it is important to have a closer look at recruitment practices and explore the role they play in inhibiting or encouraging youth labour market entry: • First, we know that many employers genuinely want to employ more young people, but that something occurs during the recruitment process that means that this intention does not translate into actual hiring outcomes. We wanted to unpack this issue and find out exactly what is going on. • Second, through our work with young jobseekers who take part in our CIPD mentoring initiative (Steps Ahead Mentoring), we’ve received personal accounts of how it feels being locked out of the labour market. We wanted to highlight some of the underlying issues and how we can help young people to overcome these. • Third, employer expectations are something young people struggle with, so we wanted to examine these expectations more closely to establish whether both young people and employers can make some changes in their behaviour to help address the existing mismatch. FROM CHALLENGES TO SOLUTIONS This report aims to present a full picture of current recruitment practices and young people, through the eyes of both employers and young people. The intention is to explore the extent of the mismatch between job opportunities and young people and how this can be addressed. To do so we will: • briefly revisit young people’s situation in the labour market, including employer expectations of young people and young people’s expectations of work (section 1) • look at how employers go about recruiting young people and at employers’ views on young people during the recruitment process (section 2) • illustrate young people’s experiences of looking for work, their views on current recruitment methods and what disadvantages them in the labour market (section 3) • look at the role social media can play in the recruitment of young people (section 4) • draw out some recommendations on how we can better match young people and jobs through the evidence collected and share best practice (section 5).
  10. 10. 8 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce Young people are amongst the most disadvantaged groups in the labour market. As a result many young people struggle with the transition from education to work and find it difficult to gain a foothold in the labour market: our research shows that one in four employers did not recruit a single young person aged 16–24 in the last year (CIPD 2012c). Furthermore, around one in ten organisations even noted a decline in the number of young people they took on in 2012 (CIPD 2012a). YOUNG PEOPLE: AN INVESTMENT ‘RISK’ FOR EMPLOYERS Generally, employers prefer to recruit more experienced candidates over young people, as they are looking for someone who can ‘hit the ground running’, that is, is immediately operational and productive. Young people lack the experience of the workplace and the job-specific skills that employers ask for and as such constitute a ‘risk’, as employers worry about the level of training and support they need to provide (see CIPD 2012c). Overall, employers’ recruitment and selection processes reflect an aversion to ‘risk’, and this can result in an ‘unconscious bias’ which disadvantages young people. This is particularly the case in times of recession, but this behaviour is also symptomatic of a lack of a strategic and long-term approach to skills needs and workforce investment (CIPD 2012c). Often this behaviour can also be linked to an inability to assess the skills, talent and commitment of a candidate who has no previous experience and therefore struggles to demonstrate their ‘employability’, something we will look at in more detail later in this report. Karina Rook is the HR director at Canterbury College and in her experience employers don’t recruit young people for two reasons: first, because they perceive young people as difficult, and second, because managers don’t know how to engage with young people, even if they do want to recruit them. Canterbury College both trains and employs apprentices, and so Karina has experienced the recruitment process from both a provider as well as an employer’s view. EMPLOYER EXPECTATIONS Another issue is employer expectations. A majority of employers in our Learning to Work survey (CIPD 2012b) have told us that young people lack an insight into the working world. This is definitely the case, as we will see a bit later in this report; however, there is also some indication that employer expectations are often unrealistic when it comes to young people. Eloise Grant from the Pertemps People Development Group (PPDG), which works with Jobcentre Plus to get young people into employment, confirms that employers often have unrealistic expectations when it comes to young people: ‘Employers often don’t have any patience; they want to have the final product, ready to work.’ Dominic Gill, Apprenticeships Manager at Microsoft, which works with four training providers to deliver large-scale apprenticeships programmes to 32,000 Microsoft partners across the UK, also explains that some employers are sometimes too picky, waiting for the perfect candidate rather than recruiting someone who has the required skills and attitude and who they can train up to do the job. As we will see later in this report, employers are often disappointed with young people during the recruitment process, in particular when it comes to preparation and presentation in the application and interview stage. 1 YOUNG PEOPLE AND THE LABOUR MARKET SUMMARY • Young people are disadvantaged in today’s labour market, with employers preferring to recruit more experienced workers. Line managers have been identified as a particular barrier in taking on young people. • Many employers don’t recruit young people because they worry about the level of investment they need to provide. • There are substantial differences across sectors and sizes when it comes to how many young people organisations recruit and what roles they offer. • There is an untapped potential for job opportunities for young people, especially in the high-growth, high-skilled occupations. • Both employers and young people have unrealistic expectations about what they can offer each other.
  11. 11. 9EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS LINE MANAGERS AS A BARRIER TO YOUTH EMPLOYMENT Line managers often play a central role in the recruitment process. Indeed over half (56%) of the respondents to a recent survey of recruitment trends by XpertHR reported that responsibility for recruiting new staff in their organisation lies principally with line managers (Suff 2012a). But while line managers are key decision-makers when it comes to hiring young people, they often need the most convincing in terms of choosing to take on a young person instead of a more experienced worker. Our review of the literature in this area has found a significant gap in the evidence around the quality of advice given to line managers involved in the recruitment and selection process; for example, what they need to consider when interviewing a young person, examples of best practices and other ways to tailor recruitment processes. Looking at current training trends for line managers in recruitment and selection, the statistics show that a lot more needs to be done in this area: at the moment fewer than one in ten (5%) organisations provide training or development for those involved in recruiting (Suff 2012a). This also came out very strongly in our employer case studies, as we will see in more detail in this report later on; those employers that successfully engaged with young people provided substantial support and guidance to their line managers. WHERE DO AND DON’T YOUNG PEOPLE WORK? Although employers can rightly be described as ‘gate-keepers’ controlling access to jobs, deciding who gains employment and who doesn’t as a result of their selection criteria (Hasluck 1998), this does not accurately reflect the full picture. There is also a macroeconomic, structural reason why young people find labour market entry more difficult. Increased globalisation and technological change mean that many of the entry- level positions – including office assistants, administrative or sales assistants and customer service executives – have now disappeared (see CIPD April 2012d). The structure of the economy is changing, with fewer sales and elementary roles as well as mid-skill occupations, and a greater number of positions in high-skill, managerial and professional occupations (UKCES 2013). Post-recession we have also seen an increase in part- time, temporary and self-employed work (CIPD 2012). There are therefore significant differences across sectors in terms of the opportunities for young people. Professional services businesses, particularly in the banking sector, have now moved many of their entry-level jobs abroad and are choosing to focus their UK operations on the more high- skilled, professional, high value-added occupations. Standard Chartered, for example, a global business operating in 71 countries, does not recruit many young people in the UK. Instead their CEO is passionate about encouraging volunteering with young people as an important part of the organisation’s CSR strategy and under their ‘Here for Good’ banner. But Standard Chartered have actually only 10–12 graduates in the UK, compared with 600 globally. ‘The small number of entry- level positions in the UK is due to the way in which our business is structured,’ explains Vanessa Paul, Talent and Acquisition Specialist at Standard Chartered. Vanessa looks after the organisation’s graduate programmes for the UK, US and Brazil but also leads Standard Chartered involvement with a number of youth charities in the UK and their work experience and internship programmes. This is something that has come out strongly in our employer interviews: companies operating in the professional services and financial space often don’t actually recruit vast numbers of young people, but are committed to helping young people through their CSR activity. This often takes the form of offering work experience placements and working with schools and local youth charities, as well as running skills academies and other employability initiatives. This seems to imply an understanding about the important role employers play in school-to-work transition, but at the same time the business case for a shift in recruitment activity towards workers without extensive experience has yet to be fully integrated into internal hiring processes. Or if the business case is understood, perhaps organisations are still struggling to see how they could restructure their job opportunities to offer more access routes to young people. Indeed, this is confirmed by survey data collected by the UKCES: financial services and the health sector stand out as being two of the most likely to recruit 19–24-year- olds, but the least likely to recruit 16–18-year-olds. High-skilled sectors, such as professional services, are least likely to recruit young people and if they do so there is a strong bias towards graduates (UKCES 2013). However, there are some exceptions, such as RBS’s Early Careers Programme, which the bank has developed to achieve a strategic approach towards recruiting young people, or Barclays’ new apprenticeships and school- leavers’ schemes. TOO YOUNG TO WORK HERE? ‘At the moment we only recruit a small number of young people – all of them university graduates – into business analyst positions. This is because our business is highly specialised and needs experienced professionals.’ Alan MacKinnon, IHS Consulting ‘Our industry rarely employs very young people; we think they are not professional enough, but that’s not true.’ Marc Anderson-Boyd, Managing Director, Taylor Nash-Recruitment ‘In the health sector we have a particular issue with perceptions of where young people can and can’t work. It’s a myth that 16–18-year-olds can’t work in patient care and something we are actively trying to challenge.’ Liz Eddy, Head of Skills, NHS Employers
  12. 12. 10 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce The sectors that are more likely to take on a young person are the hospitality and retail sectors: ‘Young people are an essential part of the hospitality sector; they are our “lifeblood”. Hospitality offers young people good progression opportunities and a clear, structured career path,’ says Liz McGivern, VP of HR, Red Carnation Hotels, explaining that this is helped by the fact that many of their senior managers started out in entry-level roles and worked their way up, which she argues helps them ‘understand the challenges young people face’. This is confirmed by Jennifer Lee, HR director at Jurys Inn, who describes the various activities Jurys Inn carries out to engage with young people, saying: ‘our young employees are important to us.’ But it is not just the sector that matters when it comes to youth employment; there is also an issue around the size of the organisation, with larger companies being more likely to recruit young people than smaller (UKCES 2013). WHICH ROLES DO THEY WORK IN? In a recent poll of CIPD members, over 50% of HR professionals reported that they thought they did not have enough routes for young people into their organisation (such as apprenticeship schemes, graduate schemes, school-leavers programmes, work experience schemes).2 This belief is confirmed by our Learning to Work survey (CIPD 2012b), where employers stated they needed to offer more routes into work for non-graduates. Overall, the most prevalent way to bring young people into organisations is graduate schemes, although many employers are now either thinking of offering, or starting to offer, apprenticeships and places on school-leaver programmes. Again, there are differences across sectors and size in terms of which organisations are offering what type of access route. According to data collected by the UKCES, about half of all large employers are offering apprenticeships compared with only 5% or 4% for the smaller employers (UKCES 2013). Similarly, the same differences across sectors are noted again: education, health and social work, and construction are the most likely to offer apprenticeships, with financial services the least likely (only 4%). Some organisations, such as the National Grid, have been offering apprenticeships for a long time (in the case of the National Grid, 19 years) and those organisations that usually recruit a large number of young people, such as Whitbread, tend to offer a large number of apprenticeships too (Whitbread have a target of 500 apprenticeships this year). WHAT ARE YOUNG PEOPLE’S EXPECTATIONS OF WORK? Young people have different expectations of work, which may contribute to the perceived disconnect between young people and employers: young people are mobile and more likely to want a job that offers them some sort of meaning and a better work–life balance. Because of the pressure young jobseekers are under to find a job, this is sometimes an issue: ‘With the young jobseeker I’ve mentored I found that his parents were nagging him a lot about finding a job so he can start earning money, but he doesn’t want to just have a job, he wants to start a career in an area that is relevant to his skills and interests,’ explains Sandra, CIPD member and Steps Ahead mentor, Northampton. However, sometimes the opposite is true too, with young people taking a rather short-sighted approach to the career opportunities available. For example, some young people don’t take up apprenticeship opportunities even if those are with big employers and could potentially lead to a promising career in that organisation, just because they don’t want to make that short- term investment of lower wages and prefer to take a job that pays them more money immediately. ‘It’s frustrating,’ explains one official working on the National Apprenticeships online vacancy matching system, which offers hundreds of opportunities to young people but yet has up to 800 unmatched vacancies per week; ‘we can see the great career opportunities an apprenticeship with, for example, Coca-Cola can offer, but some young people would turn this down because they are fixated on the low pay to start with. Instead they’d rather get a job without any progression that pays better.’ There is also an issue with unrealistic expectations when it comes to job prospects. Although we found no evidence of the common perception that ‘all young people these days want to be 2 A response rate of 70 CIPD members, CIPD survey March 2013. RECRUITMENT AGENCIES AND YOUNG PEOPLE Employers are not the only ‘gate-keepers’ controlling access to jobs; recruitment agencies also have a key role to play. Most employers see recruitment agencies as a very effective recruitment channel, especially when filling vacancies at short notice. By the very nature of the service they provide, recruitment agencies are promoting candidates that ‘can do the job’ - rather than prioritising young jobseekers over all others. However, the recruitment industry has obviously recognised youth employment as an important issue, even if some may not yet be aware of the significant role they can play in tackling this in their conversations with clients. ‘Recruitment agencies are at the front line of the labour market and thus have in-depth knowledge about job vacancies and skills shortages issues. We are working with our members to highlight the role they can play in driving good recruitment and tackling youth unemployment.’ Kate Shoesmith, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) To do this, the confederation has for example developed a Youth Employment Charter: www.rec.uk.com/about-recruitment/externalrelations/youthemploymentcharter
  13. 13. 11EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS on the X Factor’, the charity Education and Employers Taskforce recently carried out an important study that shows that there is a misalignment between career aspirations of young people and labour market demand. The research, with young people between the ages of 13 and 18, found that their ambitions relating to where they want to work were extremely limited and did not match current job opportunities and areas of future jobs growth. Furthermore, their ambitions were very narrow, with a majority of young people saying they wanted to work in just three of the twenty-five occupational categories. This, the study states, has serious implications for school-to-work transitions: ‘If young people are pursuing unrealistic ambitions as teenagers (and only one in ten of those young people interested in careers in culture, media and sports are likely ultimately to be successful), risks are high that they will pursue educational journeys which may ultimately lead them to struggle to find relevant work after leaving school, college or university’ (Mann et al 2013, p9). As a result some employers struggle to attract young people, while others are overwhelmed with applications and need to manage expectations: ‘Our challenge is to show that the industry isn’t so glamorous. We need to manage expectations of our applicants,’ says Catherine Schleiben, Head of Recruitment, ITV. HR professionals taking part in our Steps Ahead mentoring programme also reported that young people sometimes expect that if they have a degree they will find a job easily: ‘With some of the people I mentor I found that their expectations didn’t match the reality. They thought, I’ve got a degree, I’m going to get a job easily. But this is not how it works anymore in the real world, is it?’ (Lisa, CIPD member and Steps Ahead mentor, Leicester). Furthermore, young people also tend to move from job to job more frequently than their older counterparts and so are more flexible and more easily persuaded to move between organisations. Given that young people are, by definition, starting out on their careers, they are keen to access advice and gain experience. That is why employers who use social media to offer advice and guidance to young people and as a way of attracting them to the organisation in general are more successful in recruiting younger applicants than others. REFLECTION POINTS • How can we support employers and line managers in particular to look beyond a candidate’s experience at their ability, skills and motivation? • How can we support employers to design and run more access routes for young people, such as apprenticeships, in high- skill, high-growth sectors? • How can we help young people to have an informed, realistic understanding about where career opportunities are?
  14. 14. 12 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce WHERE AND HOW EMPLOYERS ADVERTISE VACANCIES Most employers generally use a number of formal and informal channels to advertise their job opportunities. Formal mechanisms include: the organisation’s website, Jobcentre Plus, recruitment agencies, adverts in the local and national press, social media and online job boards. Informal recruitment methods include: recommendations from existing employees (referral schemes), word of mouth, vacancy boards, intranet and internal newsletter and using databases of former employees. The CIPD Resourcing and Talent Planning annual survey report 2012, published in partnership with Hays, found that the most effective methods to attract applicants were reported to be the organisation’s own corporate website and recruitment agencies (CIPD 2012a). However, the most relied-upon methods of recruiting were found by the UKCES to be word of mouth and referrals (UKCES 2013). Unsurprisingly, there are also important differences when it comes to organisations’ size as to where they advertise. Small businesses tend to favour recruiting via word of mouth as it offers an effective cost-saving strategy. In addition, organisations employing ten or fewer people are more likely to use an informal and unstructured approach to recruitment, due to their lack of a designated individual or specific HR function to oversee the recruitment and selection process (Bartram et al 1995). We have asked employers in our interviews how they advertise their opportunities to young people. Most reported to use at least one, or a combination, of the following: • corporate website • online job boards • local paper • radio adverts • the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) • school visits and university career fairs • suppliers • intranet • Jobcentre Plus • youth charities (the Prince’s Trust, Springboard, and so on) • trade publications • graduate websites • non-graduate websites (notgoingtouniversity.com) • recruitment agencies • referrals • social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so on). Again, the most popular way of advertising job and other opportunities was by far the organisation’s own website, followed by online job boards, the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS), Jobcentre Plus, graduate websites as well as social media. The online matching service of the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) is particularly popular amongst employers that offer apprenticeships. Indeed, in particular, big brand employers such as Boots and Siemens said the matching service worked very well for them: ‘We have only once used other external routes; we don’t need to, as we have a strong brand name; this is why the NAS website works well,’ says Martin Hottass, Manager, Skills and Learning Governance at Siemens. But also smaller companies such as WR Refrigeration used the NAS website to access young people in their local labour market. More traditional means, such as local press and the evening paper, is something some employers said they use more to recruit young people onto their schemes as they found that parents would find adverts in the local paper and pass them on to their children. Capgemini says this has helped them to access a more diverse pool of talent. Boots explained they run features in the local paper during specific times of the year, for example when exam results come out. 2 HOW EMPLOYERS RECRUIT YOUNG PEOPLE SUMMARY • Most employers use a mixture of channels to advertise their opportunities, but informal methods are very popular. • Employers de-select young people according to their qualifications and grades but emphasise the value of soft skills, motivation, attitude and behaviour in their selection criteria. • Interviews are a popular selection method, yet they are problematic for assessing young people with no previous experience. • Assessment centres that assess a candidate’s ability are potentially more ‘youth-friendly’ but they require more employer investment. • Employers’ views on young people going through the recruitment process are fairly negative, with preparation, presentation, confidence and the ability to ‘sell’ themselves being an issue.
  15. 15. 13EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS When it comes to advertising job opportunities with Jobcentre Plus (JCP), the employers we talked to had mixed views: some had a very good relationship – this is, for example, the case of Jurys Inn – others do not use the Jobcentre other than for very specific programmes; and then there are those that are not happy with the relationship. We asked Jobcentre Plus advisers in our mini- survey how they would describe their relationship with employers and they were relatively positive, with 56% of respondents saying either good or very good and only one out of ten describing their relationship as poor or very poor.3 But clearly there is room for improvement, when we asked JCP advisers how they thought their relationship with employers could be improved, they said they would like to see greater employer interest and commitment to working with JCP and more time to engage with employers. In terms of how employers advertise to young people, many recognised that this is still an issue: ‘a lot of employers don’t write their job adverts in a way that is appealing to young people’ (for example the wording they use and the colours) as someone said in our employer focus group in Birmingham. This is also something that officials working on the National Apprenticeship Service online vacancy service have reported as a bit of an issue, especially when it comes to targeting very young candidates, that is, 16–18, employers seem to struggle with the ‘youth appeal’ of their adverts. HOW EMPLOYERS SELECT CANDIDATES ‘I’ve worked with a big supermarket chain, doing mock interviews. But you know, they claim they want to attract young people but they have a five-stage vetting process just for a store assistant. After that there is an eight-week pre-employment training. They put so many hurdles in place’ (Eloise Grant, PPDG, Birmingham). Most organisations we’ve talked to have a selection procedure with up to five stages to recruit young people. The first stage is usually either a CV with a cover letter or some sort of an online questionnaire or form, followed by a test or a phone interview and then assessment centres and/or one-to-one interviews. APPLICATIONS AND SELECTION CRITERIA Our literature review also showed that the most common method of application requested by employers is an electronic application form, offered by three out of four employers (Suff 2012a). Sending a CV or letter of application are two further application methods favoured by employers (Suff 2012a). Once employers have received an application, the first screening is based on a number of judgements. Immediate rejection can be a result of: missing information, failure to meet essential criteria, lack of experience or poor presentation. In our interviews we found the most important selection criteria for the majority of employers to be young people’s grades. Most linked their first screening criteria to a minimum standard in qualifications, so UCAS points, GCSE in Maths and English (above C), A-levels (above C). Crucially, when we asked employers what they are looking for in particular, they talked about recruiting for attitude and values and looking for the ‘right fit’. As Marcus Lee at Santander emphasised, recruiting according to their values is very important now: ‘we need people committed to a high level of integrity’, saying they look for candidates with great service skills, and an inquisitive nature and the right values. Both MS and Jurys Inn run a ‘behaviour-based’ recruitment process with the aim to identify motivation, commitment and passion, rather than technical skill and educational attainment and previous work experience. Developing the recruitment in line with their values has also helped Jurys Inn to better engage with their younger candidates, as Jennifer Lee explains: ‘It makes it easier for young people, if we use a different language. We now have a conversation about our values rather than their qualifications.’ This is a contradiction that we have also encountered in our review of the literature: employers asking for ‘soft skills’ but de-selecting young people on their hard skills. What is apparent then is that employers value personality, attitude or personal experience more highly than vocational or academic qualifications, which rarely lead to de-selection, but only once an individual finds themselves at the interview stage. There is also a difference between the skills and attributes sought by employers depending on the size of the organisation, with SMEs placing greater emphasis on previous work experience than larger employers and larger employers placing more emphasis on qualifications (UKCES 2010). Above all, the literature suggests that achieving the ‘right fit’ when hiring a new employee is the central concern for employers large and small, and in the majority of sectors (Tunstall et al 2012). We can question whether these early selection procedures based on grades are always the best way to select candidates; however, most employers report that due to the volume of applications they receive, they need to use some sort of selection criteria and using grades and qualifications seems fairer than other mechanisms: ‘We do sift by academic grades because this is the only way we can deal fairly with the volume of applications. We get 3,000 applications for 250 jobs, so we need to de-select somehow and we are very clear about what our criteria are,’ explains Martin Hottass, Manager, Skills and Learning Governance at Siemens. Some employers also ask candidates to complete an online test before they can submit an application; this is for instance the case at MS, where potential applicants sit an interactive ‘job preview’ test, intended to give them a frank and realistic look at what a job at MS (particularly in-store) is really like. The test is multiple- choice and online. Once the test is completed, the individual is presented with their result – either ‘yes – please go on and apply’ or a ‘perhaps you should consider reapplying sometime in the future’ message. The idea is that candidates who are unlikely to pass through the process successfully are filtered out, which prevents time-wastage on both the employer and the candidate’s parts. Those who complete this stage are asked to complete an application form and upload a CV. 3 Five questions about recruitment and young people with 91 responses.
  16. 16. 14 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce INTERVIEWS Interviews are the most widely used of all selection methods (Suff 2010b), although as we will see below, assessment centres are becoming very popular, especially when it comes to recruiting very young people. Interviews are probably the one stage in the recruitment process that is most likely to disadvantage young people, although this depends very much on how the interview is conducted. Traditionally, many employers favoured a competency-based approach where the candidate is asked to demonstrate their ability to carry out the task required by the job based on previous experience. Previous work experience is something which most young people don’t have and also find difficult to gain, as we will see further below in this report. A survey carried out by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) found that only 7% of participants were ‘quite confident’ that school-leavers were prepared for the world of work; while 48% were said to be ‘not at all confident’ (Federation of Small Businesses 2012). Most employers have told us that the interview stage is where young candidates often fall down. A number one complaint is that they haven’t researched the company, that they don’t show enough interest – for example, say that they are not sure they want a career in IT when interviewing for an IT company or that they can’t explain why they want the job and how their skills and experiences relate to the job profile. Some of the employers we spoke to have therefore changed their interview techniques from a competency-based approach to an approach based on ability or strength. Matt Stripe, Group HR Director at Nestlé UK and Ireland, believes this method offers a ‘much fairer way’ to test candidates ‘who have great potential and talent but no experience to lean on in traditional interview scenarios’ (Stripe 2013). We will see below how Nestlé has changed its approach to recruiting young people and how this has helped the organisation to get the right people and fill their vacancies. ASSESSMENT CENTRES Contrary to the traditional interview setting, assessment centres tend to select candidates according to their ability, including the ability to interact with others. Assessment centres are an increasingly popular way to select young candidates; according to a graduate recruitment and selection survey, over half of the employers reported using assessment centres (Suff 2010b). This is confirmed by our research with employers, where a majority of the people we spoke to use this method. Generally speaking, the larger the company, the more likely it is that they will use assessment centres (see Leeds Metropolitan University Student Hub, online workbook 2013). Typically, between 6 and 20 candidates are invited to each session, with approximately 12 in each selection group, and the assessment is usually carried out over the course of a day. Assessment centres usually take place after the first round of interviews but before final selection – however, they can also be used as an initial selection process (see the Prospects website, Prospects.ac.uk 2013). A report by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) recently suggested that assessment centres provide a particularly good way of assessing soft skills as they are intended to effectively replicate the tasks and demands of the job for which the candidate is applying (Newton et al 2005). Assessment centres aim to measure a number of different dimensions of a candidate’s ability (Leeds Metropolitan University Student Hub online workbook 2013), including intelligence and problem-solving, social skills, management skills and personal characteristics. Assessment centres require a lot of employer investment, but the employers we spoke to confirm the DWP’s research, saying that assessment centres help them to select the right candidate and – particularly when it comes to young people – they allow them to judge abilities instead of experience. This is for instance the case for Veolia, who recruit all their apprentices through assessment centres and find this a very successful way of bringing in young people. Candidates participate in group work and their behaviours and capabilities are observed. Boots, who also run assessment centres to recruit apprentices, ask them to do three different exercises; their centre is very interactive and includes stall visits and group interviews. ‘Our assessors come from different areas around the business, including HR, commercial and supply chain,’ explains Donna Browne. ‘We prepare briefings for the assessors as to how to get the most out of your young candidates.’ Similarly, Siemens run assessment centres that include role-play and other group activities. FEEDBACK Providing unsuccessful candidates with constructive, or in some cases any, feedback is something all employers struggle with – and not just with regards to employing young people. An experiment conducted by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) which addressed the issue of candidate feedback concluded that INTERVIEWING YOUNG PEOPLE ‘The biggest challenge is what questions do you ask young people? I think we all need educating on that. I have worked in recruitment for 20 years but I still struggle.’ Phillipa Hart, Hart Recruitment ‘Interviewing young people with virtually the same educational background and little life experience is difficult. This is why we make our interviewing interactive and more practical.’ Martin Hottass, Manager, Skills and Learning Governance at Siemens ‘It’s difficult with young people; often they don’t have the confidence so they don’t come across that well in an interview setting.’ Marcus Lee, HR Director, Santander
  17. 17. 15EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS ‘no feedback is the norm’. The study found that the majority (seven out of ten) of the strong fictitious applications they sent to employers received no response of any kind. In those instances where employers did provide feedback, it was mainly delivered by email rather than phone (Tunstall et al 2012). Aside from this study by the JRF, there is very little information available about the amount, format and content of feedback supplied to candidates in the recruitment and selection process. Almost all of the employers we spoke to recognise this as an issue. The main problem with providing feedback is the volume (and sometimes often also the quality and relevance) of applications most employers receive, especially in the first stage of the selection process. ‘We cannot respond to every candidate who applies, but we provide feedback later in the process when we have smaller numbers,’ says Anouska Ramsay at Capgemini. ‘We are keenly aware of the importance of feedback, not only in the application process but beyond. This is why we are holding a session with our apprentices to see how well they have been communicated and engaged with.’ EMPLOYERS’ VIEWS OF YOUNG PEOPLE DURING THE RECRUITMENT PROCESS We asked employers what they see, in their recruitment activity, as the main challenges young people face. This included things they thought young people could improve on to enhance their employability, but also what, from their point of view, disadvantages young people in the labour market. The key issues emerging are a lack of understanding amongst young people about employer expectations and how to market themselves, but also more specific issues around poor preparation, communication and presentation and a lack of knowledge as to why they want to work there and a lack of confidence. More specifically, employers mentioned to us the following issues: • young people unable to ‘sell themselves’ positively and in an employer-appropriate way • often not reading or understanding eligibility criteria for the job • difficulties in scheduling phone interviews with candidates – not turning up, or unable to speak during the day • lack of confidence • general understanding of expectations – punctuality, what to wear, how to present themselves, interaction • disappointed about difficulties young people encounter in offering real-life examples of their skills to show suitability for role • young people’s expectations: some expect to ‘just walk into their dream job’ • poor written communication, for example emails written in text-speak, not enough time spent on application forms • young people seeming ‘blasé’ or not interested/motivated in an interview • young people find it difficult to translate educational/ personal experience into workplace scenarios without assistance/encouragement • young people struggle with the recruitment process in general; what’s expected of them – for example presentations, describing why you want the job, talking through CV • often unable to ‘see the next step’ – they seem to take things at face value and aren’t able to see the bigger picture • answers on application form are formulaic; they don’t show any originality • candidates don’t know how to make themselves stand out • lack of clarity around what they’re applying for • little knowledge of basic work behaviour and etiquette • they can be intimidated by a corporate environment • poor knowledge of organisations they apply for; they don’t research the company • young people find it difficult to demonstrate their skills and experience when asked in an interview situation • young people unable to ‘sell’ themselves on their CV – very descriptive; not necessarily best demonstration of what was gained from each experience • unable to answer why they want the job and what they want to do • not able to think beyond the immediate opportunity to their career pathways and futures. EMPLOYER FEEDBACK TO APPLICATIONS AND VOLUME Asda receive over 1 million applications per year for around 28,000 jobs. Candidates received regular updates on the status of their application and those who go through to the assessment centre and interview stage can ask for specific feedback on their strengths and weaknesses. ITV also has a very high volume of applicants, which means they find it difficult to provide meaningful, tailored feedback. Candidates who are interviewed over the phone receive follow-up feedback. Those who attend assessment centres are invited to speak to a person about how they did. Nestlé provides feedback to all candidates via an automated response saying an application has not been successful. If candidates took part in the assessment centre they will receive personal feedback around why they were unsuccessful. National Grid received 10,000 applications for 70 apprenticeship places last year. The organisation thus struggles with feedback but does provide in-depth feedback to those who have been unsuccessful at assessment centre – they are offered 30–40 minutes with their assessor.
  18. 18. 16 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce REFLECTION POINTS • How can employers better promote their opportunities to young people? • How can recruitment processes and selection criteria be adapted to be more youth-friendly? • How can we get the most out of young candidates at the interview stage? • How can we up-skill young people with regards to employer expectations during the recruitment process?
  19. 19. 17EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS YOUNG PEOPLE’S OVERALL EXPERIENCE OF LOOKING FOR WORK Overall, looking for work is, unsurprisingly, for most young people a fairly frustrating and sometimes demotivating experience. The young jobseekers we asked in our focus groups about their experience of job search said that it made them ‘feel down’ and ‘not very confident’. Job search from their experience is characterised by: • endless forms to complete • no response to applications they had made • no feedback from employers • no support from anyone • employers constantly asking for ‘experience’ • boredom • low morale • competition from more experienced workers. Many also felt ‘let down’ and ‘short-changed’ by the education system. This was for instance the case for one of the young Young Ambassadors from the Prince’s Trust, who had a degree in international politics: ‘I went to university and got a degree, I’m 27k in debt now, but I don’t have a job. To be honest, I feel let down by the lack of support.’ Others also explained to us how they lost confidence and how this has affected their career: ‘I’ve got a degree in design and technology. I want to work in web design and graphic design. But after graduating I just couldn’t find a job in the sector, so I lost my confidence and I eventually gave up. For the past three years I worked in a warehouse, the manual labour was tough but at least I had a job’ (Vijay, Steps Ahead mentee, Northampton). Looking for work seems like a full-time job in itself for many young people: ‘I spend all my time looking for work. I get up in the morning and start my job search. There are so many repetitive forms to fill in, they take a long time’ (Matt, Steps Ahead mentee, Leicester). Above all, though, young people have told us about the lack of support available for them. They often feel that once they have left the education system, there is nowhere they feel they can turn to for advice and guidance. In one case, one of the young jobseekers – who was not eligible for Jobseekers Allowance as he had personal savings from working abroad – only went to JCP to get some career advice. He felt that this was the only place he could turn to for help: ‘JCP advisers were surprised to see me as I’m not eligible for Jobseekers Allowance. I told them that I had come to get advice for my job search; there is nowhere else where I can go’ (Matt, young jobseeker and Steps Ahead mentee, Leicester). To get a more rounded picture, we also asked our mentors from the CIPD Steps Ahead programme – which matches HR professionals with young jobseekers – what they thought about their mentees’ experience of accessing the labour market. They told us the key challenges young people face in their transition from education into work are about the basics: 3 YOUNG PEOPLE’S EXPERIENCES OF LOOKING FOR WORK AND RECRUITMENT PRACTICES SUMMARY • Young people’s experience of the jobs search process is often a frustrating and demotivating experience, with perceived lack of support. • Young people struggle with where to look for jobs, how to apply and how to ‘market’ themselves to potential employers. • Lack of constructive employer feedback is a key issue, affecting young people’s confidence and chances to improve. • Young people struggle with accessing work experience and lack of networks and contacts that would allow them to find out about opportunities. • Careers advice and guidance at schools is not sufficiently informing young people about career pathways and job opportunities, with negative consequences for the education-to-work transition, especially for those from more disadvantaged backgrounds. • There is an issue of young people not accessing guidance when they can as they don’t seem as important before they enter the labour market. • Recruitment processes are unclear to young people and so are employer expectations during selection stages.
  20. 20. 18 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce • how to look for a job • how to apply for a vacancy • how to perform during the interview stage. Furthermore, our mentors told us that young people don’t understand what employers expect from them during the different stages, especially when it comes to issues such as presentation and attitude. More specifically, they also told us that they saw young people struggling with some of the issues in Table 1. Finally, we also asked Jobcentre Plus advisers about the three main challenges they saw young people facing in the recruitment process. They identified these as: • presenting themselves to potential employers • interviewing skills • searching for jobs effectively. They also told us that only 5% of young people they saw reported their experience of the recruitment process as good, with a majority reporting that young people’s experience was either poor or very poor.4 YOUNG PEOPLE’S UNDERSTANDING OF JOB OPPORTUNITIES Part of the reason why young people struggle so much in their job search has also to do with their lack of knowledge about the opportunities that are available. We have already mentioned at the beginning of this report the research findings around young people’s limited ambitions when it comes to where they want to work. How the lack of understanding about career pathways, job opportunities available and different sectors and occupations can negatively affect young people’s education-to- work transition came out very strongly in our focus groups: ‘The biggest problem I’ve seen is that they don’t have the faintest idea about what they want to do. They haven’t got a clue about the different opportunities out there, and even if they did, nobody has told them what they need to do to get there; there isn’t an understanding about career pathways’ (CIPD member and Steps Ahead volunteer mentor, Leicester). This then often leads to young people not thinking strategically about their education choices or even exploring their options: ‘My mentee had studied philosophy at university. I asked him why and he said because he thought he could pass it. But he had no idea what he wanted to do. His parents just wanted him to get a job; there was no understanding about the skills he had gained independently of the subject matter. I had to drag this out of him’ (Lisa, CIPD member and volunteer Steps Ahead mentor, Northampton). We’ve asked young people about the careers advice and guidance they received at school (see box opposite). The advice they received was often non-existent and at best patchy. We also asked mentors 4 Mini-survey of JCP advisers, 91 responses, carried out March 2013. Table 1: The mentors’ view: issues that young people struggle with Job search Applications Employer expectations Confidence and motivation pressure from parents to find a job no knowledge about how to read adverts, interpret job descriptions and people specifications no knowledge about what to expect during an interview and how to excel lack in confidence lack of knowledge about what it is they want to do for a career lack of knowledge of writing a good CV and application form no understanding about how to sell themselves through their CV and at interview stage pressure of debt and worries about the future a tunnel vision/closed view about jobs and careers, for example not knowing about the variety of occupations available no understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, and how to apply those to the job search lack of awareness about the importance of presentation and dressing the part at the interview stage self-esteem and morale issues, for example they don’t feel worthy of employment no advice and guidance about career pathways and job opportunities no understanding of how to ‘market’ their skills and experiences lack of awareness about how important it is to research your prospective employer frustrated with the gap between the jobs available and their qualifications to achieve their desired job lack of potential employer contacts and networks a scatter-gun approach instead of tailored application not knowing what is expected of them during the different recruitment stages a vicious circle of being pressured to apply for any jobs via JCP, but even lower confidence if they don’t get them not knowing about support services available or not using them, such as career advisers and careers fairs at university no understanding of how they can make their application stand out no understanding about how competitive the process is lack of support
  21. 21. 19EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS about what they thought about what their mentees knew about the options available and got similar feedback: ‘With all of my mentees I found that when they had received advice it was very limited and unsupportive of the young person’s ambitions; they seemed unwilling to explore what young people wished to do’ (Chris, CIPD member and volunteer mentor for Steps Ahead, Leicester). With career advice and guidance in schools being limited, most young people get their career insights from their family and/or friends: ‘I don’t remember getting any advice from anyone. The only advice I got was from my father’ (Gulcin, Steps Ahead mentee, Leicester). This is a problem because it limits young people in terms of understanding about their options. This is particularly an issue for children from a lower income background, as Neil Morrison, HR director at Random House, with a particular passion for this agenda, explains: ‘We need a better understanding about the opportunities that are available – middle-class children are better off when it comes to information, advice and guidance through their parents, but what about the rest? What about those whose relatives aren’t engineers, publishers or doctors?’ Though sometimes, young people are not accessing the support available to them when they can; perhaps this is because they don’t know how important this is until they find themselves in the labour market. One of our mentors from Steps Ahead explained that her mentee, a young jobseeker in Northampton, had never heard of recruitment fairs that were held by his university. She said she found it ‘alarming’ that young people aren’t aware of help and support that is available during and after graduating: ‘I’ve asked my mentee about the career guidance at his university. He said he’d never heard of any. The first thing I did at the beginning of our mentoring relationship was send him off to a careers fair in Northampton. I think it’s also alarming that they don’t know about careers websites during their time at university’ (Sandra, CIPD member and volunteer mentor for Steps Ahead, Northampton). There is definitely more support at universities, but it comes back to the question of who is accessing the support. For example, at Regent’s University, the Careers and Business Relations Department sees making students aware of employers’ expectations as a crucial part of their work – as well as providing students with access to careers advisers and coaches. The university regularly hosts workshops where businesses are invited to speak to students about what skills, experience and attitudes they’re looking for in young applicants. The university also provides tutorials aimed specifically at improving students’ overall employability, as well as sessions designed to boost young people’s ability to secure employment upon leaving the university – for example, LinkedIn and job search workshops. ‘It’s an important part of our job to prepare students for what business expects from young recruits entering the workforce. Which is why we try to foster early engagement between employers and students from the very start of their educational journey,’ explains Matthias Feist, Head of Department, Careers and Business Relations, Regent’s University. What young people have told us though is that often they are not aware of how much this matters until it is too late. For example, one of our young jobseekers comments, ‘When I was studying I spent all my time thinking about my degree and my dissertation. I wish I had known then how important it is to prepare myself for the labour market and get clued up about job search; if I’d known what I know now I would have spent more time on that.’ Another issue that was raised is that in some cases the young person knows what it is they want to do but doesn’t know what they need to do to get there – again highlighting the absence YOUNG PEOPLE’S EXPERIENCE OF CAREERS ADVICE AND GUIDANCE ‘We did have a careers adviser at school but only for the naughty kids. If you had done something wrong then you had to see the careers adviser.’ Rose, Young Ambassador, Prince’s Trust ‘Yes, I remember we got some advice at school. They showed us a video about the workplace, about working in an office.’ Vijay, Steps Ahead mentee, Northampton ‘I don’t remember getting any advice in school. Nor do I remember any employers coming in to talk to us about jobs.’ Bennett, Young Ambassador, the Prince’s Trust ‘No, I didn’t get any advice on what to do, but I always loved gadgets, so I knew I wanted to do something with technology, which is why I studied IT. I’m still looking for work though.’ Keith, Young Ambassador, Prince’s Trust ‘Careers advice in my school was shocking. They decided I should do hair dressing. I was told there wasn’t much else I could do. I eventually went to university though and there was some support there.’ Abby, Steps Ahead mentee and media graduate ‘A Connexions career adviser came into school in year 10 – found advice helpful.’ Steps Ahead mentee
  22. 22. 20 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce of solid information about career pathways at school. Nick, one of the Young Ambassadors we spoke to in our focus group with the Prince’s Trust, said he always knew that he preferred manual labour and that he wanted to become a trades person, but it’s just upon entering the labour market that he discovered that he needed a specific card to be a certified construction worker. What we also found is that most young people had received no information on alternatives to university education and that the choice on leaving school was university or work. This has been confirmed by our recent research amongst employees in their role and also as parents, that only 15% said they had received information about apprenticeships. The work of the Education and Employers Taskforce has well documented and illustrated the benefits of employer contact at school (see their research on NEETs and employer contact demonstrating that those with more employer contact at school are less likely to become NEET later on). Yet, most of the young people we spoke to had not experienced any employer contact at school. This is also confirmed by the research that shows that only 15% of young adults recalled three or more employer contacts through their schools or colleges (Mann 2012). This further contributes to their lack of awareness around the opportunities available, especially as the labour market becomes more complex. This is something that Phillipa Hart, who runs her own recruitment agency (Hart Recruitment), has seen as negatively impacting on youth employment: ‘We have unfilled vacancies and opportunities for young people, like apprenticeships. This should be in the news! Instead all we ever hear about is how there are not opportunities for young people. It’s depressing.’ Phillipa says she also often redirects young people looking for jobs to training providers, an avenue most young people, according to her, don’t know about. YOUNG PEOPLE’S ACCESS TO JOBS Most of the young people we talked to told us that they think their lack of previous experience is their biggest barrier to accessing employment. They feel that they are locked into a vicious circle where employers are asking for experience but wouldn’t help them to get this. This is not only the case with our young jobseekers, but also other groups of young people more generally. The group of students studying business studies at Regent’s University, who we ran a focus group with, also worried that they would not be employable without experience relating to what they want to do. While most young people understand the value of relevant work experience, they often don’t know how to get it. How important work experience is to labour market access is confirmed by research carried out by the UKCES, which found that a lack of work experience is the number one reason for employers to turn down a young person (UKCES 2013). This is a particular problem today as there is a decline in young people having part-time jobs while in education (UKCES 2013). This means that while more employers are asking for work experience, fewer young people are actually acquiring this, leading to a mismatch in the labour market. As a result, young people find it even harder to compete with older and more experienced workers: our literature review also found that previous work experience can play an important role in getting shortlisted for interviews (Newton et al 2005). As seen above, in terms of the selection procedure, a young person’s application is often subject to a first-stage formal screening process, consisting of scoring against ‘set criteria’, including work history (Tunstall et al 2012, p20). Many young applicants might find themselves filtered out due to a lack of previous experience. The victims of this ‘experience trap’ face the additional problem that their lack of work experience also means a lack of references to support their applications and act as ‘an illustration of their employability’ (Atkinson and Williamson 2003, quoted in Newton et al 2005). Another issue that young people and mentors have raised with us is their lack of networks and connections and how this makes it often seem impossible to access the labour market. When we talked to business students at Regent’s University, the majority there also believed that it’s still ‘who you know’ which determines your overall success at finding a job. As one participant said, ‘you will always have an advantage if you have the right connections.’ Young people from lower socio- economic backgrounds are obviously more disadvantaged by the importance of connections. Limited and unequal access to jobs is particularly the problem in some industries, such as media or publishing: CATCH 22: THE NO EXPERIENCE, NO JOB CYCLE ‘Most of the jobs that are advertised require some previous experience; there don’t seem to be any jobs for people like us, without any work experience.’ Vijay, CIPD Steps Ahead mentee, Northampton ‘I’m now trying to get some work experience, as all the job descriptions I see want you to have experience. I’m not picky as to where and what – I just want to put something on my CV.’ Gulcin, CIPD Steps Ahead mentee, Leicester ‘I think degrees need a more practical element to them, something that gives you work experience. I can see that my friends who did sandwich studies did better at getting a job.’ Rose, Prince’s Trust Young Ambassador
  23. 23. 21EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS ‘I’m looking for jobs in the media sector, but it is really difficult, even with having done work experience in this area. Only about 20% of the jobs are advertised, the jobs that you see are only the tip of the iceberg; it’s all about contacts and inside knowledge, which I don’t have yet’ (Abi, Steps Ahead mentee, Leicester). Word-of-mouth recruitment is an issue connected to that, as young people often don’t tend to have the necessary work contacts to be included in this. And yet this route is a recruitment practice that is used by more and more employers. Capgemini, for example, say that their most popular route for apprenticeship recruitment has been through the Employee Referral Scheme, with 80% of all apprenticeships being sourced that way. However, the company is aware of the potential shortcomings of this way of recruiting young people: ‘Opportunities can miss certain audiences and the diversity of applicants is not so wide,’ explains Anouska Ramsay, Head of Talent, Capgemini. This is confirmed by research carried out by the UKCES that shows that word-of-mouth recruitment is now the number one way to recruit: ‘Young non-graduates are particularly dependent on informal connections with employers, through friends or family, to secure employment. Most young people haven’t had time to build these social networks or don’t have the right contacts to start off with, which puts them at a disadvantage in today’s labour market’ (UKCES 2013). In smaller organisations, recruitment is often done via networks and family: ‘When I joined the organisation there was no HR function. Recruitment was largely done via networks and family. It’s been a bit of a struggle to convince managers not to recruit via this method, which seemed to be the easiest option for them,’ says Sam Newman, Head of HR, WR Refrigeration. Studies show that when vacancies are communicated by informal mechanisms there is a tendency for that vacancy to only reach similar people to those already in employment (Canny 2004, quoted in Newton et al 2005, p48) thus acting as a barrier to diversity and cutting off entire pools of talent. For young people, therefore, employers’ reliance on these networks to recruit means they are often not exposed to opportunities if and when they arise. Although statistics show that for some young people, informal recruitment works, a study by the JRF shows that for ‘weaker’ candidates who do not have access to these particular networks, the Internet is the most successful method of finding work, not word of mouth (Tunstall et al 2012). YOUNG PEOPLE’S APPROACH TO JOB SEARCH AND APPLYING FOR JOBS As our mentors explained, many young people find themselves under huge pressure to find a job, which does not help their approach to job search, as one Steps Ahead mentor explains: ‘This impacts on their mental attitude; they panic and tell themselves that they can’t find a job. They spend so much time applying for jobs that there isn’t really enough time to gather information about careers.’ Parents, Jobcentre Plus advisers and young people often push themselves to apply for as many jobs as possible (they need to apply for at least six jobs a week to qualify for Jobseekers Allowance). As a result, young people often have a scatter- gun approach to applying for jobs, which results in many applications that aren’t tailored to the specific job advertised. As we’ve seen above, this leads to employers receiving hundreds if not thousands of applications that may not be relevant to their vacancies, but this is also a problem for the young person, as it further contributes to denting their confidence: ‘As a result of this not very effective approach to applying for jobs, the young person lives in a world of constant knock-backs, with devastating effects for their confidence and morale,’ explains Ian, CIPD member and volunteer Steps Ahead mentor, Leicester. Our mentors have worked with young jobseekers to explain to them the benefits of a more tailored approach: ‘What I’ve explained to my mentee is that there is no point in applying for “any old job”, even if that is what his parents or the Jobcentre want. I know that as an employer you can’t afford to waste the time to recruit someone who doesn’t want to do the job. So you don’t’ (Sandra, CIPD member and volunteer Steps Ahead mentor, Leicester). Another issue related to this is that young people are often not systematic in their approach. So while most young people feel like they spend all their time looking for work, they often don’t use their time very effectively, explains Ian, a Steps Ahead mentor: ‘I’ve noticed with my mentees that they spend a lot of time thinking about their job search, but they don’t have a structure; everything is done quite randomly and without a process, which means that the job search seems very overwhelming.’ In terms of where to look for jobs, this is also something young people are struggling with – because they generally tend not to know where they want to work and they don’t usually look directly at an organisation’s website, although this is where most employers advertise their opportunities, as seen above. Most young people use online job boards and websites such as Monster and Reed, as well as graduate job websites such as Milkround. Some said they use industry-specific/specialist job sites and all said they have used the newly launched government website ‘Universal Job Match’ as this is where the Jobcentre Plus told them to look for jobs. All young people have expressed very strong views on the new Universal Job Match, although none of them were positive views, for example: ‘it’s not user-friendly and is unhelpful’ and ‘it’s the same jobs advertised for months’. They also included more specific comments, such as: the jobs that are advertised on the website don’t have employer contact details, so a candidate can only send a ‘generic’ request via the online system. The system also doesn’t allow you to amend or tailor your CV/covering letter when applying, which contradicts the advice jobseekers are given.
  24. 24. 22 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce A number of young people also tried to approach their job search by registering with recruitment agencies, but generally didn’t have good experiences. They commented that the agencies would offer them jobs that had nothing to do with what they wanted to do (mainly call centre jobs) or arranged meetings with them just to fulfil a certain quota. When it comes to applying for jobs, the application forms are mostly a mystery to young people. Young people don’t really know what to include in the form and how to use examples of school and university experience to demonstrate their skills to employers. This is similar when it comes to writing their CV, which has come up as one of the top issues. Most mentors said they were shocked at how ‘confused’ the young person’s CV was and how it didn’t make the most of their qualifications, experiences and skills. YOUNG PEOPLE’S EXPERIENCES AND UNDERSTANDING OF SELECTION PROCESSES Recruitment processes are not clear for many young people. This often starts with who to contact: ‘Everything is the same: there are no names on the advert, nobody I can write to. If there was a name that would give more meaning to my application letter. Now I don’t even know if somebody will read my letter, it’s all so anonymous’ (Preeti, young jobseeker and Steps Ahead mentee, Leicester). In general, they say they have very limited information about the processes and different expectations at the different selection stages. Many don’t understand how competitive the process is and what employers’ expectations are (no background research, and so on). Most young people don’t even know that there are different stages: ‘It would be good to have more information about the process – if somebody would tell me about the different stages and how it works, what they are looking for in each stage. Now it’s just like throwing something into a black hole; you don’t know what happens afterwards and you don’t know where you went wrong’ (Rose, Young Ambassador, the Prince’s Trust). They also say that for them it is important to have a closing date, but that many of the jobs they apply to don’t have that. This is also an issue, as research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that many young people are unaware of the competitive nature of the jobs market and underestimate the importance of applying for vacancies quickly (Tunstall et al 2012). Face-to-face interviews are something which is also particularly challenging, even for those young people who thought they knew how to write a CV and a covering letter, which was the case of the students at Regent’s University we spoke to: the majority didn’t know what would be expected of them at an interview, how to prepare for it, what format it would take. Most young people find it very difficult to ‘sell’ themselves in an interview situation; they struggle with confidence issues and the formality of the interview situation, especially if they haven’t been in an office before, as is the case with many young people. ‘I don’t feel fully myself if I am in a suit and a tie. It does not help my confidence’ (Keith, Young Ambassador, the Prince’s Trust). They told us that it intimidates them to sit across from someone at a desk or a table and that they would prefer a more active, informal setting. A key issue that both the young jobseekers and their mentors raised is the lack of constructive feedback provided by employers. For young people this is the number one issue they mentioned when we asked about their experience of the job search. They told us how getting feedback would help them with their morale but also to understand where they are going wrong. They overwhelmingly told us that ‘employers aren’t giving any helpful tips or personal advice on applications’. Our mentors concluded that this not only means that employers aren’t helping young people to improve, but it could also be harmful to the employer brand: ‘if an employer doesn’t reply to applications, nobody wants to work there.’
  25. 25. 23EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS THE IMPACT OF (NO) EMPLOYER FEEDBACK ‘I haven’t had any feedback from my applications at all. Sometimes I’ve received an automated reply saying “your application has been received”, that’s all.’ Steps Ahead mentee, Leicester ‘Employers don’t give feedback, so everyone becomes despondent. Most young people get a message saying you didn’t get to the next stage with no explanation, no feedback, so they wonder “what did I do wrong?” It is very disheartening.’ Eloise Grant, PPDG ‘When I did get replies back they said that other candidates had more experience or better profiles, I found that very depressing, because how was I going to get that experience?’ Gulcin, Steps Ahead mentee, Leicester ‘My current mentee had been applying for different jobs but kept getting rejected. No feedback was provided and most of the systems used were automated and very complicated. I tried to find a contact to help him but couldn’t.’ Sandra, CIPD member and volunteer Steps Ahead mentor, Northampton ‘I applied for a vacancy with a big public sector employer a few months ago, and I am still waiting to hear back. I really think if there was one thing that employers could do to change their recruitment practices it is to provide feedback. I’ve spent time applying for a job; it’s a question of respect.’ Vijay, Steps Ahead mentee, Northampton REFLECTION POINTS • How can we provide more support to young people in the transition phase from education to work? • How can we help young people to better understand employer expectations? • How can we increase young people’s understanding about job opportunities and career pathways? • How can we get more young people to access work experience? • How can employers make their recruitment processes more transparent and youth-friendly? • How can we build young people’s confidence, in particular in the interview stage? • How can employers provide more, and more constructive, feedback?

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